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Kevin Plank

Petro Kulynych

Making a Million: How These People Made Theirs...

Becoming a millionaire isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.

Stanford University pals, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, struck it big when they created their search engine, Google, in the late 1990s. Oprah worked her way from a farm in Mississippi to billionaire status in the entertainment industry. Bill Gates left Harvard his junior year to devote himself to Microsoft, the computer company he had started with a childhood friend.

These days, a record of 8.2 million U.S. households hold a net worth of more than US $1 million, a 33% increase over the previous year!

While smart investments in the stock market usually lead to such financial bliss, the following VIP's demonstrate numerous other ways to make a million. Though they took different paths toward their success, each millionaire never lost sight of their goal.

While most college seniors are cruising toward their graduation and searching for jobs, Kevin Plank was headed down a different path. During his final year at the University of Maryland, he developed sportswear that now outfits most professional and college sports teams and even makes a fashion statement on high school playing fields. Founder of Under Armour, Kevin Plank, now 32, employs 450 people and has grossed more than US $200 million last year.

Kevin made his big discovery while playing football on the Maryland Terrapins. After wearing a cotton undershirt that turned into a soggy mess of sweat during games, he began searching fabric stores for a lightweight material that would fit snugly, eliminate moisture and replace the undershirt. When he thought that he found the perfect fabric, he paid a tailor US $400 to come up with many prototypes and had his teammates try them out… the shirts were an immediate success and soon enough both his team and his opponents were wearing them.

Post graduation, he tried to patent his idea, but after racking up US $7,000 in legal fees, he gave up. He lived rent-free in a house owned by his grandmother and patiently worked on his no salary business until he received a US $250,000 loan from the Small Business Administration. After paying off his debts, he made it big time. Now he is the official supplier of compression apparel to Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer. Though it was a high risk business venture, Plank says that he did it at the right time. His youthfulness gave him the edge and the tenacity to stick with his idea. With a Cadillac at 26 and VIP access to major sporting events, like the Super Bowl, Kevin Plank has definitely seen his idea pay off.

Marco and Sandra Johnson

This couple began their multi-million dollar business when they started saving the lives of community members in Lancaster, Calif. The idea came from Marco, a full-time firefighter and paramedic who was continually angered by witnessing situations in which lives could had been saved if bystanders had been able to administer first aide.

So, in 1997 the couple began offering CPR and first-aid classes to local businesses. After a few months, they had earned enough money to rent a 400-square-foot office. Their business venture started paying off when workers whose jobs require CPR certification sought them out and students at local junior colleges wanted to get around the 2-year waiting list for EMT classes.

Though they delved into their own incomes to support the school, it paid off soon enough. In 2004, their school was expected to pull in revenues of US $7.5 million with corporate clients from Boeing to Burger King. Now, the Johnson's have several homes and have even treated their entire extended family of 12 to vacations in Hawaii!

Pete Kulnych

Pete Kulynych knows what it means to start at the bottom. His job as the bookkeeper for a small hardware store in North Wilkesboro, N.C. eventually grew into serving as top executive at the same store, which grew into the Lowe's hardware chain.

Kulynych, now 83, is the son of Ukranian immigrants and left Pennsylvania's coal-mining country after high school to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps. Later, he moved to the National Park Service, attended the Merchant Marine Academy, got married, served in World War II, and used his GI benefits to pay for accounting school. In 1946, owners of the North Wilkesboro Hardware, Lowe and Buchan, hired him at US $25 a week.

As he worked his way up in the company, he saw the business grow immensely over the years, and he was able to contribute to the company's foundation and retirement plan. Now, Lowe's has more than 1,000 hardware stores nationwide with annual sales of more than US $30 billion. Kulynych's bank account grew with the company, and the one share of Lowe's stock bought for US $12.25 when the company went public in 1961 is now worth US $28,000.

One of Kulynych's proudest accomplishments has been paying for the education of his two daughters, six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. He has also donated millions to the two family philanthropic foundations run by his daughters. Being able to distribute considerable income "makes you get up in the morning and go to work," says Kulynyvh. "It's been a good life."

Scott and Mandi Leonard

After Scott and Mandi Leonard's wedding in 1996, they decided to take a business risk. Scott quit his job as a stockbroker and started his own financial-planning business. With no clients, no income, and a big mortgage, the Leonards faced financial troubles, only to be bailed out by Mandi's jobs with technology companies. Her jobs with Oracle and PeopleSoft helped her earn valuable stock options during the late 1990s. The couple sold their PeopleSoft stock, which had risen from US $6 to US $43 and began to invest in real estate, a decision that proved to be quite lucrative. Their home, which they bought for US $800,000 in Hermosa Beach, has been recently appraised for US $1.45 million. Furthermore, they bought a historic, but rundown house overlooking the water in Redondo Beach for US $250,000, which is now worth US $1.8 million.

Having taken advantage of California's real estate surge, the Leonards have enough home equity plus savings to put them easily in millionaire territory. Furthermore, Scott's business has taken off and now he manages about US $100 million in assets for his clients. The Leonards feel they owe their success to keeping their eyes on their long-term goals, knowing their own strengths and weaknesses and distinguishing between a calculated risk and a gamble.

Chip and Kim McAllister

Two years ago, Chip and Kim McAllister thought they had hit rock bottom. Their information technology firm had just gone bankrupt as the result of a bad business partnership. Their house was in foreclosure, they had two kids at home, and neither Chip nor Kim had a job.

Feeling desperate, Chip came up with the idea of anchoring a spot on The Amazing Race, the reality TV show in which 12 couples take part in a stunt-packed race around the world. They competed against 9,000 other applicants to get on the show, qualifying with an eye-catching video and a series of successful interviews. Once chosen, the McAllisters spent US $1,000 of their own money on equipment, then grabbed their new backpacks and set off on the expedition.

After scaling cliffs, trekking up ski slopes and eating two pounds plus of caviar in one sitting, they won the show by booking a flight that got them to their final destination 10 minutes ahead of the second-place team. Chip and Kim each received a check for US $500,000, holding half a million bucks in their hands before giving up about US $350,000 in taxes. They were able to spare their house, valued at US $1.8 million. They donated a portion of their winnings to their church and invested the rest in business enterprises. The McAllister's were general favorites on the show, and since then, they have parlayed their TV exposure into a career as inspiration speakers, giving lectures on teamwork, and how to build a successful marriage.

Though we hear much more about the Oprah's and Bill Gates's out there, these determined people demonstrate the possibility of the American dream, taking a risk on a business venture and sticking with it out until the millions start coming in! Power to them!

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